Our vision for your school

Students who enroll at Sky Islands join an academic community and are expected to take part in that community respectfully and apply themselves responsibly to academic work.   Students should be prepared to be physically active in our field work projects and intellectually challenged in our classrooms. 

All Sky Islands’ students take a demanding sequence of core classes in math, science, social studies, and language arts.  Electives are open to all students in grades 10-12.  Upper division classes in lab sciences and honors programs are available based on eligibility to those students who meet or exceed the academic and behavioral pre-requisites.  Our classes are aligned with Common Core and AZ State Standards, and integrated across the academic disciplines by grade level.  Expectations are high, but achievable, and students are held personally responsible for their levels of performance.

Our students go on from here to a 4-year or 2-year college, into apprenticeships in the skilled trades, and directly into the workforce or military service.   We encourage you to take part in a site visit and to realistically appraise your student’s needs and interests against Sky Islands’ practices and principles.

Dr Shari Popen, Founder and Director

 

SKY ISLANDS’ TEACHERS & STAFF:

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Dr Shari Popen

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Dr Shari Popen

SKY ISLANDS’ FOUNDER AND SCHOOL DIRECTOR

 

director@skyislands.org

It is a thrill for me to introduce you to Sky Islands– one of Arizona’s Best Schools for 2018.  Our staff has worked together for many years, is experienced, highly qualified, and student-oriented.  When you come to Sky Islands, you can expect to see a bit of creative disorder at any time of the school day as students and teachers go about their work together. I have a PhD in Philosophy of Education from SUNY Albany, and a Masters degree in Educational Foundations from Kent State University.  Prior to opening Sky Islands, I taught undergraduate and graduate courses at U of A in the College of Education for 10 years, and simultaneously taught in Political Science for 2 years.  I was a faculty member at Western Washington University for 8 years, taught at Prescott College/Tucson and at NAU/Tucson in the graduate Educational Leadership program.  In a previous life, I owned a bookstore in Berkeley. Come join us.  Together we will make the world that we want to live in.

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Karen Flores

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Karen Flores

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

 

admin@skyislands.org

Karen Flores joins Sky Islands most recently from the UA’s Department of Medicine finance office. Karen received her BSEd secondary education degree in history and social studies, summa cum laude, from NAU in 2006, and her MEd in Human Relations from NAU in 2012. She taught 7th grade social studies at TUSD’s Utterback Middle School, and was NAU’s Extended Campuses’ Program Coordinator for 8 years. In addition Karen provided administrative support at Christensen Elementary School in Flagstaff for 10 years, as well as admin support for the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council, the Coconino Engineering Company, and the City of Flagstaff.

In addition to Karen’s administrative background and secondary education certification, she is a 2008 graduate of the AGTS Supervisor’s Academy and the Intel Lean training program in 2014. Karen has also been a Literacy Volunteer tutor, and is trained in CPR, First Aid, and AED. When not at Sky Islands, Karen’s life is filled with her three dogs and her family, including her grandchild in Flagstaff; with reading and gardening, cooking and listening to music as well as playing the flute.

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Lucas Bogard

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Lucas Bogard

SCIENCE

 

science@skyislands.org

Lucas is a founding teacher at Sky Islands and has been instrumental in developing the science curriculum and the overall integrated educational program. He has degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder in American Studies and Ethnic Studies, and is a Highly Qualified science teacher. He is a graduate of a 40-year old alternative school in Denver, and taught integrated science classes in charter schools in Tucson for 4 years prior to joining Sky Islands. Lucas is responsible for developing the astrobiology, enthnobotany, ecology, food biology and earth science courses, as well as the school gardens and many outdoor projects. Lucas is a proficient speaker of Japanese, conversational Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and he speaks various African dialects. He is a master gardener and has introduced students to organic, healthful foods. Expect his classes to go outside and bring the outside in— science at Sky Islands will open your eyes and minds to our living world, and especially the Sonoran Desert ecosystem.

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Michael Bagesse --- and Peppers

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Michael Bagesse --- and Peppers

PROJECTS AND SITE COORDINATOR

 

mbagesse@skyislands.org

Mike arrived at Sky Islands in January 2014 from Tuller School where he had been an administrator and counselor. He attended Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. Mike has played bass and guitar professionally with several bands, both locally and on tour. He is a master gardener, and has worked at B and B Cactus Farm in Tucson. Additionally, Mike received certification from the Sonoran Permaculture Guild’s Design course. Under Mike’s direction, Sky Islands has added an Aquaponics system, planted 30 trees with a grant from Trees for Tucson, and has installed passive rainwater harvesting.  In the 2014-15 year, Mike coordinated the installation of the koi pond, 20 trees in the edible orchard, a pollinator garden, and a cactus garden. He also oversaw the creation of the major watershed restoration project in the front area of the school in 2016, and runs the agricultural end of the Farm-to-Kitchen Food Program.

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Matthew Taylor

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Matthew Taylor

MATHEMATICS

 

math@skyislands.org

Sky Islands welcomes our newest member to the staff—Matthew Taylor. A native Tucsonan, Matthew is a graduate of Reed College in Oregon, with a BA in mathematics. In 2008 he received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota, and was a practicing attorney from 2008 to 2011 in Pima County. He then spent 5 years in northern California working at Green Gulch Farm, an organic farm in Marin County. In addition, Matthew is an experienced high school math teacher, most recently in the Sunnyside district. As an undergraduate math major at Reed College, Matthew learned to see mathematics as a strong component of the liberal arts, and a model of clear reasoning through the study of patterns and structures. The senior math class will include an emphasis on statistics and probability, as well as an introduction to programming using Python. Matthew brought some great soup recipes back from Green Gulch Farm’s kitchen—so watch for our own Blue Sky Café to feature them.

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Leighton Jeffy

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Leighton Jeffy

LANGUAGE ARTS

 

ljeffy@skyislands.org

Leighton Jeffy joins the Sky Islands’ staff in August, 2019. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Leighton is a 2007 graduate of the University of Arizona, with a B.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2009 he received Secondary Education English Certification at Pima Community College. Most recently Leighton was the Language Arts teacher at The Rising School, where he taught composition and grammar, creative writing and literature, and literary and rhetorical analysis. He has also taught Language Arts at Satori Middle school and at BASIS Tucson, each for 4 years.

When not in the English classroom, Leighton travels – from age 17 on, he has spent over a decade living and traveling extensively in Egypt, India, South East Asia, and has spent time on a Kibbutz in Southern Israel. Those journeys make their way into his classroom and bring Language Arts alive with the peoples and stories of the world. Students can expect to take a creative part in a Poetry Potluck, a project-based approach to learning English, and a symbolic journey through literature.

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Allie Silber

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Allie Silber

SCIENCE / LANGUAGE ARTS

 

asilber@skyislands.org

Allie is continuing at Sky Islands for a fourth year to bring a field studies component to our project-based science program and to help direct the restoration ecology project. Allie has a BS from the University of Washington in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, attended the Teton Science School in Wyoming, and has received her Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Prescott College. She has taught at the Academy of Math and Science in Tucson; Gann Academy in Massachusetts; and Aspen Community School in Santa Fe, where she created the school garden.   In Seattle Allie helped coordinate the Dream Project among high school students and worked with the children’s garden— Seattle Tilth. Her experience extends to Israel, where she apprenticed at the Hava v’Adam Ecological Farm. As a field science teacher, Allie will provide a strong focus on site ecology, place-based and experiential coursework. With Mike Bagesse, she was responsible for coordinating the watershed project as part of the C2E grant award. Allie’s work in Santa Fe is presented in the book “It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden”. Allie is an avid hiker, rock climber, and camper and you could possibly run into her on a Tucson trail or, if lucky, backpacking across the United States!

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Joseph Mais

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Joseph Mais

SOCIAL STUDIES/ LANGUAGE ARTS

 

languagearts@skyislands.org

Joseph came to us last year from Washington D.C., where until recently he was a Senior Policy Advisor for the Undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education, and Senior Advisor for Higher Education at the White House Executive office of the President.  He has worked as a Senior Counsel in the Office of Congressman Grijalva, and for TICAS, The Institute for College Access and Success in D.C.  Joseph has a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Arizona, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law School.  He spent one year in Taipei, Taiwan on a scholarship at Shi-Da University to learn Mandarin.

Prior to his Washington D.C. work, Joseph taught at Presidio High School in Tucson, where he was Department Head and teacher in Language Arts and History.  He also taught an Introduction to Law class at Ballou High School in D.C. as part of the Georgetown Law Clinic.  Joseph brings great depth and experience to the Language Arts classes at Sky Islands, designing and building real-world content literacy strategies into grades 10-12 curriculum.  Another side of Joseph—he is a student and instructor of ballet, jazz, and modern dance.

Joseph’s work as national advisor for Higher Education has prepared him to advise Sky Islanders about the process of college enrollment, grant and aid applications, and career choice.

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Ennis Bustos

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Ennis Bustos

FRENCH / HUMANITIES

 

ebustos@skyislands.org

Sky Islands is very pleased to welcome Ennis Bustos, and with Ennis we add French to our program! He has a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Foreign Languages from the Louisiana Scholars’ College, the State of Louisiana’s Honors College at Northwestern State University. And most recently Ennis received his Master of Arts in French for the UA’s Department of French and Italian Studies. He also speaks Dutch, Russian, and Spanish. In addition to teaching French 1 this year, Ennis will be teaching a Dual Language French / English class to help students better develop their English skills through a comparative approach, and an upper division Humanities class If you ask Ennis what drove him to become a teacher, he is quick to respond—his own high school teachers in Lubbock TX. He credits them for giving him a passion to think critically and openly in the classroom, and the value they gave to creative thought. Sky Islanders will be academically challenged by him and will quickly adopt his infectious love for learning. Ennis also brings an avid interest in health and healthy eating that will help connect the farm and culinary classes across the program.

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Amy Wood--- with Jonny

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Amy Wood--- with Jonny

ARTS

 

arts@skyislands.org

Amy Wood will join Sky Islands in August 2019 as our full-time arts teacher. Amy has a BA from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA, where she majored in studio art, concentrating in painting and printmaking. She studied art and art education at Teachers College, Columbia University in NY, and graduated with MA and teaching certification, K-12. Additionally, Amy studied landscape architecture at the University of Arizona, where she learned about sustainable environments, water harvesting and desert plant and animal life. She also worked as a project manager at the UA Drachman Institute.

Amy taught middle school art at the Central Park East Secondary School (CPESS) in East Harlem, NYC, a school founded in 1995 by Deborah Meier, an innovator of small schools that focused on building relationships between educators and the families/communities. Amy was a teaching artist in learning centers in Manhattan, teaching exploratory, multi-media art programs to public school children around the city. At one center, she worked with the children to create and install a ceramic mural in an outdoor playground space. For the last five years she has been the studio teacher at Second Street Children’s School in Tucson, a Reggio-inspired school. Amy is traveling to Reggio Emilia, Italy, in May on a Western States’ educators study tour. Our art program is back in color!

Aidan the Chef

Aidan Gould

Aidan the Chef

Aidan Gould

CULINARY ARTS

 

chef@skyislands.org

Sky Islands can celebrate our entry into Tucson’s City of Gastronomy with our new chef! Chef Aidan trained under master chefs at the Tucson Country Club, where he learned basic food preparation techniques, as well as safety and sanitation procedures, basic nutritional concepts, and menu planning. He worked as a cook at multiple Tucson restaurants, further developing his kitchen skills and passion for food—including as a chef at Charro Steak House and Caffe Torino. This past year he also partnered with Don Guerra, owner of Barrio Bread, to create a pop-up restaurant at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art. Barrio Sandwiches was a 5-month venture during which Aidan shifted between Executive Sous Chef to Restaurant Manager.

Sky Islands—with Chef Aidan—has an opportunity to link the kitchen and lunch menus creatively to our Farm-to-Kitchen program. By linking Blue Sky Café to local produce delivered by Erik Stanford’s Pivot Produce, Barrio’s artisan bread made from locally grown heritage grains, and menus designed around sustainability and good health, student lunches take on a new excitement. Look for the addition of pop-up Farmer’s Markets at school that feature produce and eggs from our Farm, as well as pop-up café events. Stop by and taste the difference he brings.

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Christy Webb

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Christy Webb

INTERNSHIPS/ EXCEPTIONAL STUDENTS

 

christywebb@skyislands.org

Christy Webb joins the Sky Islands’ staff in August, 2019. A native of Iowa, Christy is a graduate of Iowa Wesleyan College, with a BA in Education, and Cum Laude Honors. In 2012 she received a Master’s Degree in curriculum Instruction at ASU. She was a Lead Teacher at Rincon High School and taught at Blenman Elementary. Most recently Christy was the Lead Teacher at Intermountain Academy, where she taught academics as well as supervised IEPs and organized internships for students to explore careers.

Christy spent 4 years in the U.S. Navy, and comes to us a skilled and seasoned educator. She is certified in RBT, with the BACB/ Behavior Analyst Certification Board. In addition, she brings strong community outreach and a structured approach to what will become a new career development and internship program at Sky Islands. Growing up on a family farm in Iowa, Christy’s experience with farming and her desire to provide healthy and sustainable foods will be a good fit with the school’s Urban Horticulture and Farm-to-Kitchen programs.

Jon

Jon Ben-Asher

Jon

Jon Ben-Asher

Strategic Initiatives and Accreditation

 

Sky Islands is proud to welcome Jon Ben-Asher to our expanding staff. In addition to being excited about Sky Islands’ mission and the school’s unique culture, this is a bit of a homecoming element for Jon as well: he attended school on the Rogers’ campus in the mid-seventies when his family lived in the surrounding neighborhood. He attended public schools here and chose to stay to be with his family and raise his own in Tucson. He believes that each of us has a responsibility to make the world a better place and chose teaching and education to do this work.

Jon has his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arizona, and a graduate degree in educational administration from the University of Phoenix, and is an Arizona state certified teacher and principal. Additionally, he has more than thirty years in education in Tucson, including over 10 years of classroom teaching and almost 20 years in leadership roles. He has worked toward school improvement in traditional public schools and public charters, as well as private for-profit and independent non-profit schools, and serves the international organization AdvancED for school accreditation reviews and improvement recommendations. At Sky Islands, Jon will lend his deep experience to support strategic planning and improvement initiatives that will make Sky Islands a stronger place to teach and learn. Plan a visit to meet Jon, and if you are lucky, his dog Hope!